Thursday, December 19, 2013

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 16. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

As our boat was wading through the dark and chilly Underground River, I remember the cranky bat sounds and the hilarious jokes of our tour guide, Kuya Roger. He kept us entertained with his snappy comments about the major formations of stalactites and stalagmites inside the chambers of this world wonder. He was too funny! Overall, it was a quick tour, but definitely a fun and wonderful experience for me. 

Besides visiting the Underground River, some of the things I recommend doing in Puerto Princesa City are:  foodtrip (Badjao Seafront, Ka Lui, Bilao at Palayok, try  the local dish tamilok); city tour -  Butterfly Garden, Crocodile Farm, Mitra’s Ranch, Baker’s Hill, Tiange, Tiange (buy goodies like cashew nuts and some souvenirs), Baywalk, Immaculate Conception Cathedral and Plaza Cuartel; Ugong Rock adventure; and Honda Bay Tour. 

More stories about my Puerto Princesa adventures here.

Tourists at Puerto Princesa Underground River

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 15. Boracay Island

Named as one of the best island getaways in the world, Boracay Island is arguably the tourism capital of the Philippines. It draws in a year-round flux of visitors from around the world -- tourists out to bask in the glorious sun and sand of this famous island. 

What to look forward to in Boracay? Don't miss the spectacular sunset, gastronomic adventures (best food trip), morning walks and people-watching along the beach, and well, of course, swimming. 

Despite the dangers of massive developments, Boracay is still one of my personal favorites (I visited it six times and still hopes to go back). I really believe that Boracay deserves all the accolades and recognition it's been getting. I only hope that the local government will have more authority to contain over-development so as to stop the gradual demise of our own beautiful paradise Boracay. NOTE: tIf you can, take back home your trash next time you visit Boracay. 

More of my Boracay Island stories here

View of the famous White Beach

Friday, December 13, 2013

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 14. Catanduanes

There's a lot to love about Catanduanes -- time grinds slow, friends are everywhere, Sundays are about family and churches, mornings are crisp and cold, and beaches are within close radius. Growing up in this island was about things that matter most and these make me look forward to going back again and again and again - like family, friends and nature. 

Our province has not been in the radar of many seasoned travelers I know, which I find both fortunate and unfortunate. Fortunate because many of our beaches remain unspoiled and a strong sense of provincial life is retained. But unfortunately because I see a lot of potential for it to be the next BIG adventure destination. 

So what's in Catanduanes, really? Well, for one we have one of the country's best surfing spots, the majestic Puraran (the mighty swell!!); we have  pretty beaches with pretty sunsets and sunrises; we have old and historic churches, we have beautiful cascades; we have rugged and contoured mountains (if you're up for adventure climbs); and yes, of course, the people, the warm and gentle Catandunganons. 

See it for yourself. Visit Catanduanes! :)

Check my posts about Catanduanes here

Locals cruising the Bato River

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 13. Biri Island

Biri Island was once the best-kept secret of Northern Samar, a place out of the tourist trail because of its remote location. But apparently now, it is fast becoming the face of tourism in this province and is attracting many local and foreign visitors.

Along with my adventurous friends, we road-tripped Eastern Visayas last year and had Biri Island included in our itinerary. From Tacloban City, we stopped at Catbalogan City, passed by Calbayog City, and slept overnight in Catarman. The following day, we took a long drive to the small town of Lavazares which is the jump-off point to Biri, and after a rough banca ride, we reached our final destination.

The challenge of getting there paid off when I saw the magnificent Magasang Rock Formations. I was left in awe with these incredible gift from nature, many thanks to the ferocious waves of the Pacific Ocean. I can only imagine how many million years it took to be formed to how we see it today!

If you want to deviate from the usual tourist destinations and opt for more off-the-beaten paths, Biri Island in Northern Samar is definitely a perfect choice. Just make sure to bring comfortable footwear and sunnies, and be there in time for the sunset or sunrise for postcard-perfect photos!

My full story about Biri Island here.

The rocky beach of Biri

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 12. UP Diliman Campus

University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD), the main campus of the country's premier university, is definitely my most favorite spot within Manila. Not only it is called the cradle to many of the country's great minds and thinkers, it is also home to many cultural icons like the Oblation and the ikot jeepneys. 

Called a "microcosm of the Philippines" because of the many things going on around there, UP is not just your regular university campus. I personally visit it for a myriad of reasons: to eat (and have coffee), to attend mass, to meet friends, to walk (or jog or bike), and to sit still (and breath). And a true Diliman experience for me is never without spending a good deal of time people-watching at the Sunken Garden, digging on Mang Larry's famous isaw, and a hearty tapsilog meal at Rodic's. 

Especially during sunsets, the green canopy of the acacia trees providing shades to the joggers and students along the Academic Oval is quite a beautiful sight. It is like a refuge, a step away from the hustle and bustle of the city crowd that surrounds it.  

Visit UP Diliman whenever you can, and just take time to commune with trees and nature (without leaving the city). 

At UP Diliman during my interview with GMA7's 24 Oras. Check the story here.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 11. Enchanted River

Another reason to visit Mindanao is this river that looks a lot like a sea in the middle of a forest. Hinatuan Enchanted River has the stunning blue hues and clear water enough to gaze fishes even from above the water.

After an agonizing (and depressing) travel along the bumpy roads of Surigao del Sur (the logging in this province is of large scale leaving a vast area denuded), seeing this hidden treasure at the end was definitely a treat.  The place was packed with tourists when I went there, but the river hasn't lost its charm on me.  I was awed by the sight of it, just the way I've imagined before actually getting there.

I hope that cleanliness is maintained  in the area despite the heavy influx of tourists recently eager to get a share of the enchanted river experience.

For more details. here's my blog about Enchanted River.

Enchanted River and its stunning hues

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 10.Palaui Island

CNN's 10th on its list of World 100 Best Beaches is also my personal 10th favorite spot in the Philippines, the sensational Palaui Island.

Nothing quite matches up to the solo adventure I had to this tiny island located in the northernmost part of Cagayan Valley. I had to brave a difficult terrain (cross three hills, pass by a long beach,  thick forest, streams, a mangrove park and a rice field) so I could get to Faro de Cabo Engano or Cape Engano Lighthouse, a centuries-old lighthouse standing atop a hill covered with verdant grass. A spectacular sight awaited me to my final destination which is worth the pain of actually getting there. 

Ok, so don't think that this place is that remote and unreachable. There are boats that directly docks to the beach near the lighthouse, saving you a good 5-hour painful hike. But here's the thing, the hike isn't bad at all! The terrain is full of interesting local flora and fauna you'd actually enjoy! It is also declared a National Marine Reserve and home to a vast variety of fishes and undisturbed corals, a perfect spot for snorkeling and swimming. 

There are no commercial establishments (just one or two sari-sari stores, as far as I can remember) in the entire island so be prepared for a rural island life. But, I'm telling you, more than the wonderful site, one of the things that stands out to my Palaui adventure was the genuine kindness of the people I met there. 

To get there and other stories about Palaui Island, please check my blog here.

A panoramic view from Cape Engano

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 9.Lake Sebu

Tucked in the mountains of South Cotabato, the town of  Lake Sebu has all that it takes to be called the ultimate travel destination -- cold breeze, fresh foods, majestic waterfalls, glassy lake water, warm people, and well-preserved traditions . It is a one-stop place for those in search for a relaxing, cultural, and an adventure-filled travel.

I immensely enjoyed my stay and profoundly learned to appreciate the quiet and laid-back life of the people there. The trip was highlighted by our lunch overlooking the placid lake, meeting Lang Dulay (a National Living Treasure and dreamweaver of T'boli's famous cloth T'nalak), and the thrilling zip line ride to the Seven Waterfalls (saved us an arduous trek without missing the breathtaking view).

About two hours away from General Santos City, Lake Sebu is a destination worth-visiting. You may brush off your fears regarding security issues as this is one of the most peaceful places in Mindanao that I've been to. The local people are friendly and accustomed to visitors, thus going around is not a problem.

Visit my posts about Lake Sebu here.

One of the Seven Waterfalls at Lake Sebu

Friday, December 6, 2013

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 8.Mayon Volcano

Whenever I think about it now, I feel privileged to have once lived in place close to a world wonder -- the majestic Mayon Volcano. I had the best vantage point back then to see Mayon right outside my window every single day! Very often, she'd flaunt her naked beauty with a flair of smoke billowing from her crater. It's her visual treat to her regular audience -- the people of Albay and some frequent travelers to the province. But sometimes, she hides in the comfort of the clouds tightly hugging her symmetrical conical shape. For unlucky tourists, it's an automatic bad Mayon day. 

Make no mistake despite her irresistible charm, Mayon is considered one of the most active volcanoes in the country. Every now and then, she'd show her might which could be extremely dangerous, but some "tourists" still take it as yet another magical display of power of this famous natural landmark in Bicol. 

Mayon is one of those destinations many get to see in books or online, but nothing beats the joy of actually seeing her for the very first time from the misty window of a speeding bus or while aboard a plane that hovers close to it. She's a real Magayon! 

Visit Mayon whenever you can. For more photos and stories about Mayon, check out my posts here.

Beautiful Mayon during sunset

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 7.Batad Rice Terraces

Batad Rice Terraces are part of the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These 2,000 year-old impressive terraces carved into the mountains of Ifugao are priceless contributions of our ancestors to the world.  Each year, it welcomes local and foreign travelers who are eager to get a piece of the quiet mountain life. 

Although there are threats posed by nature (landslides) and modernity (structures and houses built near the terraces and the new generation choosing to find greener pastures in the lowland instead of cultivating the rice fields), Batad (a GMO-free site), as I saw it, still stands proud of its incredible heritage. It was truly a humbling experience to be in the same spot where our ancestors once stood to carve this masterful and cultural treasure. 

It's not everyday that I get to sleep in an authentic Ifugao hut and wake up to the awesome view of dramatic contoured mountains and verdant rice terraces. The picture-perfect background, mist-covered rice fields basking in the morning sunlight, and the sight of the local people going about their early routines made the waking up part very special. It was a tough call for me to get there since we had to hike for hours under the biting midday sun, but the experience was every bit rewarding. Batad roads are less traveled, but definitely worth-taking.  

Taking into consideration the preserved culture and traditions, breathtaking sites, and the unforgettable trek on the rice paddies, Batad Rice Terraces rank high among my favorite spots in the Philippines.

Follow my Batad stories here.

Batad Rice Terraces

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 6.Calaguas Island

This is Calaguas Island for me: it has the fine sand of Panglao Island, the gorgeous sunset of Boracay Island, the remoteness of Caramoan and Palaui Island, the rawness of Palumbanes Island, the vast shoreline of Pagudpud, the  blue waters of White Island in Camiguin and the idyllic setting of Nagsasa Cove. Enough said, Calaguas is a beauty which rightfully deserves all the accolades it's been getting lately. A must-visit destination for everyone. 

Calaguas is not only a great beach for camping and swimming, close to it is a site for bird watching and hiking, a lure for adventurers. If you're up for a good break from your mobile phone, Facebook (yes, that too) and TV, and if you're gunning for a relaxing weekend by the beach (and commune with nature), head to this happy island in Camarines Norte. You'll in for a treat! Reminder though, be prepared for a primitive tent accommodation. :)

With the growing flux of tourists visiting the island, I fervently hope that Calaguas will keep its slow pace sans the pervasive clout and threat of excessive commercialism. 

Here's my blog about my amazing weekend in Calaguas. :)

Mahabang Buhangin Beach, Calaguas

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 5.APO Reef Natural Park

A 50 ft scuba dive (my first ^_^), swimming with a shark (oh yeah!), green sea turtles (eeeee!! the best!) , barracuda (yeahaha!) and diverse bright-colored fish and corals in God's beautiful underwater garden (rrawwwr!), an overnight "accommodation" in a hammock, great company of friends (kaladkarins!!!) letting off colorful sky lanterns on a clear starry night, splendid sunset atop a lighthouse, and waking up to a magnificent sunrise with the sound of the waves humming melodies into my ears -- these memories spark happy thoughts whenever I think of APO Reef.  Considered as the largest atoll like reef in the Philippines and nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, APO Reef Natural Park (Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro) deserves to be included in your list of top places to visit in the country. 

For more details about my super weekend in Apo Reef, please check out my stories here

The view from Apo Reef Lighthouse

Monday, December 2, 2013

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 4.Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake

Twenty two years after the climactic eruption that shocked the world, it is still unimaginable and surreal to see a magnificent view right where the disaster happened -- the now famous turquoise-colored crater lake of  Mt. Pinatubo.

I visited it back in 2009 and found the trip as "magical." I still recall that clear February morning, my friends and I jumped to a rugged 4x4 ride before we took the "relatively easy" trail leading to the crater. It was a day well-spent as we enjoyed the beauty around while in the company of great friends. To cap our delightful experience, we stopped by to say hello to an Aeta community on our way back to the base camp.  

I was wowed by the sight and the experience that I promised myself to bring more people to see this wonderful spot. In 2011, along with my sister and two friends, I revisited Mt. Pinatubo. And although the weather was not on our side that day, my legs were wobbly after hours and hours of trek, and some apparent changes like the infrastructures (the newly built concrete viewing deck and recreational buildings were not there when I first visited the area) that now stands near the lake, I still found the trip as enjoyable as the first time Pinatubo and I met.  

Hopefully the future visitors will take care of the lake and avoid littering within its premises. For itinerary going to Mt. Pinatubo, pls check my blog here. :)

Mt. Pinatubo's turquoise-colored crater lake 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 3.Siquijor Island

I was thinking of a particular spot in Siquijor that stood out for me, and I couldn't think of any. It's just that I simply love this tiny island province.

Also known as the Island of Fire, Siquijor is often associated with mystical traditions like "barang" and love potions. It is not usually in the tourist trail because of its "reputation." But after spending a beautiful weekend there last year, I must say that Siquijor was love at first sight... literally! I knew the moment I stepped into the port and gazed into the view of the beach... then and there, I fell in love. I've seen a lot of ports around the country, but nothing compares to the panoramic view of Siquijor Port. Just adjacent to it is a wide stretch of white and fine sand beach with clear blue water which is a perfect visual treat to visitors coming in to the island.

I also loved the beaches at San Juan, the waterfalls, the churches, the people and of course the sunsets!!!  My Siquijor adventure is one for the books... enough said... it is my absolute favorite!

Visit my stories about Siquijor here.

Sunset at San Juan

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